Melinda enters Effert’s, only to find that her mother is on the phone. She grabs a pair of jeans and begins to lament the indignity of adolescence, and ridiculing her own “canoe feet” and “wet, obnoxious anklebones.” Mocking the unfashionable Effert’s, Melinda tries on two pairs of jeans that are too small before settling on a huge pair of jeans and a giant sweatshirt.
Melinda’s mother, as usual, is uninterested in her daughter. Melinda, meanwhile, is miserable because of how much she’s grown—yet another symbol of growing up. Her decision to wear giant clothes is a defense mechanism, meant to make herself even more invisible, and perhaps even more specifically to downplay and obscure her body from the rest of the world.
Examining herself in a three-way mirror at the store, Melinda adjusts it so that she can see “reflections of reflections, miles and miles of me.” She is disgusted by her appearance, and manipulates the mirror so that she looks like “a Picasso sketch,” her face and body broken into different “dissecting cubes.”
Considering how much she loathes her appearance, this infinite series of reflections is a nightmare for Melinda. By making herself look like a Cubist work of art, though, she feels that she has made her reflection display her jagged, broken inner state.
Remembering a movie in which a badly burned woman had to be given new skin, Melinda puts her scabbed mouth close to the mirror, and “[a] thousand bleeding, crusted lips push back.” She wonders what it would be like to have new skin, revealing that she feels as if hers has been “burned off,” or torn off by the “thornbushes” that are her fighting parents, the horrible Rachel, her repressive school, and the faithless Heather. She tells herself that she just needs to wait for her “new skin to graft,” but feels as if she is being eaten alive by her own emotions—her “thoughts, shames, mistakes.” She resolves to stay away from her closet, make herself normal and to forget everything else.
Melinda feels so wounded and raw that it makes sense for her to identify with a burn victim. Although she tries her best to protect herself by remaining disconnected, every negative interaction with her parents and her peers cuts Melinda to the core. Her own emotions, too, seem to be against her, constantly attacking her and making her feel worthless and disappointing. Although she may attempt to repress these thoughts, she is ultimately unable to do so.